Imagine if one day your friend, out of the blue, lamented, ‘I have such a gross neck.’ You might think it a bit of an odd comment. Maybe you’d have a curious look at her neck to see what she could possibly be talking about, and then maybe you’d mentally write it off as not all that important or interesting. But what if the next week, another friend complained about how ugly her neck was?! What would you think then? Would you wonder, ‘Hmm, what’s all the fuss with necks?’ Why is everyone talking about necks? Would you take a sly look to find out? Or perhaps the third time the topic of necks came up, particularly how dissatisfied every member of your book club seemed to be with theirs, I’d bet my right arm you’d go home and have a close look at your own. And I’d bet my left that you’d find something wrong with it. Would you add this two cents the next time the topic of necks came up? Probably, it would seem to be the thing to do.
What would happen if this type of neck-talk persisted for many years? Perhaps entrepreneurs would capitalize on the chance to develop and sell neck altering products. Or maybe the fashion industry would get in on the action and market neck-flattering items for every season. Would the scientific community come along and implement studies confirming the growing fears that, yes, X-neck measurement does in fact correlate to the likelihood of dying before the age of 60? Probably.
But what if just stopped talking about necks? What would change? Would the general well-being of necks be affected in any negative way? I can’t answer that, but this long-winded and uninteresting analogy is really just my way of asking…What if we stopped talking about weight?
I don’t think many would argue that the whole culture of weight—weight loss, body image, size, whatever name you put to it—has become somewhat of trademark for our generation. We talk about it with our friends, we obsess about it privately, science examines it in great detail, we’ve even built entire industries around the whole notion of ‘weight.’ My question is…Are we any better off for it? Is our weight or well-being somehow improved by this cultural obssession of ours? I doubt it.
One thing I have been blest to have in my life is amazing female friends. AMAZING. These ladies are successful, beautiful, and articulate, they are mothers, lovers, community shapers, and friends. Truly I am never happier than sharing a cup of coffee and a conversation with any of them. We talk reality TV, politics, diapers and everything in between, but one topic I have become less interested in over time is weight. Weight-loss, weight-gain, diets, exercise regimes, jean sizes—these topics have been staples of conversation over the years, but, honestly, I’m kind of done with it. You want to talk to me about such and such that upset you a work? I’m all ears. You want to tell me about your daughter’s first piano recital and how it brought tears to your eyes? Let’s hear it! You want to confide in me about your son’s social anxieties? Hey, I’ve been there. You want to talk about your flabby arms and back fat? Yea, less interested.
I’m not saying I’m innocent of ever steering a conversation in the direction of the topic of weight. I’m not, and I have plenty of friends who can confirm that. What I’m proposing is a little experiment—a simple commitment to talking to your friends about topics that do not include ‘weight.’ Instead talk about your fears, your interests, how the political world is pissing you off this week, your kids, your career aspirations, anything else will do. This whole ‘weight’ thing? Just put it on the back-burner of your conversations for awhile, and see what happens….
I can’t change the world on this issue, I realize that, but I do desire a new way going forward. I don’t wish this culture, this obssession, and particularly this negative internal dialoue on my kids, so I have no choice but to act. I can’t influence the industries, the media, and certainly not the science on this whole topic of weight, but I can change the conversation with my friends.